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Child Labor Still Prevalent in Cotton and Garment Industry

child labor

The number of child laborers in the world has dropped by a third since 2000, but according to a recently published report, there is still more work to be done.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 168 million children are involved with child labor around the world, with half in hazardous conditions and six million in forced labor, said a new report released by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL).

In the 14th edition of the USDOL’s “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,” 18 countries were identified for using child laborers in the cotton industry, including Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Turkey.

In Central and South Asia, many children work in cotton cultivation, while kids in the latter region work as forced and bonded laborers in textiles and manufacturing.

In Asia and the Pacific region of the world, 77.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 17, or 9.3 percent of all children in the area, are victims of child labor, most predominantly working in agriculture.

The DOL claims child labor can be reduced or eliminated by combating the root causes of poverty and helping poor families by offering education, social protection and decent work strategies.

In 2014 and early 2015, children around the world were involved in child labor most commonly due to poverty, as well as a lack of access to education and other cultural reasons.

The DOL says that although policies and social programs can help prevent children from being forced into the workforce at a young age, there are many countries that have not established a minimum age for employment, while other nation’s minimum age falls below international standards.

Throughout the last year, a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific strengthened government capacity to enforce child labor laws: Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hired additional labor inspectors and provided training; Nepal also added more labor inspectors.

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“Establishing a clear, strong legal framework that conforms to international standards is critical for governments’ efforts to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Therefore, this section gives special attention to the ratification of international standards and the adoption of corresponding national legislation,” the report read.

Out of a total of 140 countries evaluated in this report, 13 received an assessment of Significant Advancement, 68 received Moderate Advancement, 44 received Minimal Advancement, 11 received No Advancement and 4 were not given an evaluation. Eight of the countries evaluated as No Advancement received this ranking because no meaningful actions were made toward eliminating the worst efforts of child labor.

Countries that received the rank of Significant Advancement included Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Uganda and Madagascar, among others. Brazil, Peru, South Africa and Uganda, received the same evaluation in 2013.

Twenty countries were bumped down from Moderate Advancement to Minimal Advancement in 2014, among these was Bangladesh.

This drop in assessment level was mostly due to the lack of efforts shown during the reporting period in the areas of legislation, government coordination and enforcement to address these forms of child labor.

In Bangladesh, 18.5 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in the industry sector, which includes footwear, garments, textiles, jute textiles and leather.

During 2014, the government created the National Child Labor Welfare Council and hired 152 new labor inspectors. The council, however, did not meet during the previous reporting period and the legal framework of Bangladesh does not protect children working in informal economic sectors like small farms, street work and domestic work, where most child labor occurs.

Latin America and the Caribbean had the most countries with a Significant Advancement evaluation level with seven countries. Sub-Saharan Africa followed close behind with four countries.